We put a man on the moon, so why can't we grow hair? (Photo by Zach_MancesterUK)
This post marks the conclusion of the hair growth battle between emu oil and Hair Again®. The idea was to see whether either product would promote hair growth as advertised.
For the past eight months, I've been applying Hair Again® topical gel on my left temple and emu oil on my right temple. Given that the rather small can of gel has lasted me this long, it's obvious there have been occasions when I've forgotten or just decided not to use it. In particular, I've skipped applying the gel and the oil when I've washed my hair, because they tend to make my hair look greasy.
Nonetheless, I believe this is a long enough time to see results. And, since I've only applied the gel to a small area, it's not too surprising it has lasted so long. I should note that at first, I only used it on my temple, but about halfway through the experiment, I started applying it on my left eyebrow as well. In addition, I've used it on the small gap in my hairline which seems to run in the family. I occasionally but rather inconsistently applied the emu oil to my right eyebrow.
So what about the results? Well, the first observation is that nothing positive has happened on the right temple. I know emu oil is touted as some kind of ancient remedy of the Aboriginees, claimed to improve wound healing, skin wrinkling and hair growth, but I saw no such effects. It's supposed to permeate the scalp skin easily, but I found it to leave a very greasy feeling for a long time, especially if I used it on my face. Granted, the skin on the temples and on the scalp may be different, and perhaps it really does feel good on the scalp, but used in the way I used it, I can't say I liked the product.
In fact, on more than one occassion, I noticed an itching feeling and small red bumps from irritation on my right temple after applying the emu oil. That didn't happen when I put it on my face, where it just left a greasy residue. There was no change in skin smoothness and no increase in eyebrow growth.
With Hair Again®, things were a little more interesting. As you may know, I managed to grow a couple of new hairs on my left temple using a retinol cream from the same company. Those hairs are still there, and while I'm not sure whether I'd classify them as vellus or terminal hairs, they have grown to over 2 cm in length. Since the gel I used for this experiment also contains retinol, I was expecting results at least as good as with the ordinary retinol cream.
The full ingredient list is pretty impressive: coenzyme Q10, superoxide dismutase, retinol, vitamins E & D3, glutathione, beta glucan, beta carotene, beta-sitosterol, quercetin, progesterone, and melatonin. Most of these have studies behind them showing that they have the ability to grow hair in vitro, and getting all of them in one product is not a bad deal at all. But as everyone who has been tried hair growth products on themselves knows, in vitro studies rarely translate into hair growth in vivo.
And such was the case here as well. Unlike emu oil, the gel is absorbed quite nicely, and despite its yellowish color, doesn't leave your skin yellow. However, after months of use, it's still uncertain whether the product actually does anything. If I look really closely, I think I can see some vellus hair growing on the temple that weren't previously there, but the effect has definitely been more modest than with the retinol cream. Furthermore, my eyebrows have not thickened, and nothing has happened with the small gap in the hairline.
It could, of course, be that these ingredients only work on the scalp where hair is already growing. Maybe there is a crucial difference between the temples and the hairline and say, the crown. Certainly, many people report that they have more success with hair loss treatments in filling in crowns than temples and receding hairlines.
However, since it clearly is possible to grow new hairs on the temples – an area affected by androgen receptors just like the rest of the scalp – using retinol, one of two explanations come to mind: either the amount of retinol is too small, or the rest of the ingredients cancel the effect. To my knowledge, all the ingredients in the gel work by reducing androgen receptors or DHT (again, in vitro) and not by promoting hair growth per se, like minoxidil does. The fact that I saw no thickening of the eyebrows supports this view.
Therefore, my suspicion is that no matter where you apply the product, it will have a weak cosmetic effect at best. You might grow some vellus hairs, which could be useful, but I doubt it will reverse your hair loss. And if you just want to grow some vellus hairs, you might want to go with pure retinol instead. Or retinoids, if you're willing to risk some skin irritation in the beginning.
Anyway, I'm glad that the experiment is finally over, and I can move on to new and more exciting experiments. I already have a couple of good ones planned. I'll keep you posted.
For more information on hair growth, see these posts:
Eclipta Alba Extract Grows Hair Quicker than Minoxidil
Tea Tree Oil vs. Korean Red Ginseng – Hair Growth Battle Conclusion
Silica for Hair, Nails & Skin: BioSil vs. JarroSil
2% Nizoral Shampoo Increases Hair Growth More than 2% Minoxidil